Heard outside Starbucks: ‘Brother, can you spare a Frappuccino?’

When Starbucks announced it was closing 600 underperforming stores, including 17 in Southern Nevada, I imagined street corners across the nation lined with out-of-work baristas.

Barista. That’s Starbucks talk for the person festooned with earrings who chats you up like a family member just back from the Peace Corps and also prepares your espresso-based coffee drink.

Admit it. Until Starbucks came along, you didn’t know a barista from a tourista. I know I didn’t, but then I don’t get out much.

Now I can’t live without one.

That’s only one reason why Starbucks is important to the culture. It has taught us a whole new language. In fact, it might be the closest thing to a foreign language most Americans will ever learn.

A trip to Starbucks is like taking a cruise to a somewhat exotic, color coordinated island that, although tightly controlled by the corporation, allows you to visit without a passport and enables you to use words such as Ethiopia Sidamo and venti and macchiato and Frappuccino without having to exchange your U.S. dollars for Euros, lira or pesos.

I’m frankly surprised you don’t see more people greeting each other with kisses on both cheeks at Starbucks. It seems like that kind of place. But perhaps customers are too busy trying to remember whether they wanted their peppermint white chocolate mocha iced, blended or poured in their hat.

My point is that Starbucks is a cultural phenomenon.

It’s also a remarkable business success story with more than 15,700 stores in 43 countries. I’ll double-check, but I think I counted 11,000 stores in Southern Nevada alone.

And any company that has figured a way to serve endless gallons of steaming coffee to Las Vegans in July, when it’s hotter on the outside of the cup than it is on the inside, knows plenty about the coffee-selling racket.

So when I learned about the impending local store closures, I wondered what it said about the true state of the U.S. economy. That’s right, Starbucks is my caffeinated canary in the coal mine. As goes Starbucks, so goes the nation.

Were budgets so tight people were not longer ordering $4.80 coffee drinks?

Were Americans no longer rushing out to vacation on the Isle of Starbucks?

I grabbed the address list of local stores set for the corporate grinder and made the rounds.

My tour resulted in a couple of simple truths and one hellacious caffeine buzz. While the sum total of my business acumen is limited to making sage choices from McDonald’s $1 menu, I think I discovered Starbucks’ problem.

They jammed some stores into really bad spots. When even people desperately chasing a caffeine fix can’t find a way into your place, you’ve selected an inferior location.

Three examples: Coffee seekers attempting to pull into the store at Ann and Painted Mirage roads must hang a sharp right or risk merging onto the southbound 95. The Starbucks at 950 S. Durango Dr. is on a curve, and by the time you see the sign you’ve practically passed it. And Dale Earnhardt Jr. couldn’t negotiate the right turn off Buffalo to drop into the store at 7595 W. Washington Ave. without hitting a guardrail. None offers a drive-through.

Add to that the fact a gallon of gasoline and a loaf of bread are now as expensive as a large blended coffee drink, and you have the recipe for a reorganization.

"Poor real estate decisions that were made, coupled with a very troubled economy, convinced us that these stores would not reach acceptable levels of profitability," CEO Howard Schultz wrote in a message posted on the company’s Web site.

Credit his candor.

But thousands of wage-earners could lose their jobs in the shake-up.

Although several fiercely loyal Starbucks employees told me they were concerned about the closures, they seemed eerily confident the company would find a place for them as "partners." I’m not sure if they drink the coffee, but I suspect they’ve sampled the corporate Kool-Aid.

I just want to know what will become of the army of unemployed baristi. (That’s the plural of barista.)

How do you scrawl your qualifications on a piece of cardboard?

"Will twice-blend-a-venti-mocha-iced-Frappuccino-with-whipped-cream for food" won’t fit. By the time drivers at the off-ramp read your sign, the light will have changed.

Better stick with, "Will brew for food."

John L. Smith’s column appears Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. E-mail him at Smith@reviewjournal.com or call (702) 383-0295.

Vegas Homeless Remembered
Las Vegas vigil remembers 179 homeless people who died over the past year in Clark County. (David Guzman/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
A look inside Tesla’s Nevada Gigafactory
Tesla's Gigafactory east of Reno produces the batteries that fuel the company's electric cars. Production has created more than 7,000 jobs, and the campus that includes one of the largest buildings in the world is expected to triple in size by the time it is completed. Tesla Vice President Chris Lister leads a tour of the facility. (Bill Dentzer/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Garnet Interchange Ribbon Cutting
The Nevada Department of Transportation celebrated the completion of the $63 million I-15-US 93 Garnet Interchange project. The project includes a modified diverging diamond interchange and a 5-mile widening of US 93.
State Foresters Hunt for Record Trees
Urban foresters from the Nevada Division of Forestry hunt for record setting trees.
Rick Davidson directs NFR satellite feed
Rick Davidson directs the Wrangler NFR's live satellite feed from a production trailer outside the Thomas & Mack Center. (Patrick Everson)
Scott Boras, Bryce Harper's agent, speaks to media at baseball's winter meetings
Baseball agent Scott Boras updates media on the contract negotiations of his client Bryce Harper during baseball's winter meetings at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Dec. 12, 2018. (Ron Kantowski/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Achievement School District
The achievement district faced strong opposition from traditional schools back in its beginnings in 2016. But with schools like Nevada Rise and Nevada Prep, it's slowly and steadily growing. Amelia Pak-Harvey/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Fresno State QB on record-breaking receiver
Fresno State quarterback Marcus McMaryion talks record-setting receiver KeeSean Johnson. Video by Mark Anderson/Las Vegas Review-Journal
The annual 'Shop with a Cop' event at Target
This year’s "Shop with a Cop" event gave about 40 children the chance to shop at Target alongside a North Las Vegas Police officers. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @Bizutesfaye
Melvin Dummar dead at 74
Melvin Dummar has died at 74. Dummar was famous for claiming to have saved Howard Hughes in a Nevada desert in 1967. Dummar claimed to have been left $156 million in Hughes’ will. The will mysteriously appeared after Hughes’ death in 1976. It was dismissed as a fake two years later. Dummar never saw a dime of the billionaire's fortune. Dummar died Saturday in Nye County.
Officer-involved shooting in Nye County
The Nye County Sheriff's Office gives information about a shooting in Pahrump on Thursday night after a man began firing shots outside of his home. (Nye County Sheriff's Office)
Law Enforcement Active Shooter Training Exercise
Multiple Las Vegas Valley law enforcement agencies held an active shooter drill at the Department of Public Safety’s Parole and Probation office on December 6, 2018. Officials set up the training exercise to include multiple active shooters, a barricaded suspect and multiple casualties. (Katelyn Newberg/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Public memorial service for Jerry Herbst
Archiving effort hits milestone at Clark County Museum
The Clark County Museum catalogs the final item from the bulk of Route 91 Harvest festival artifacts. (John Przybys/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Pearl Harbor survivor Edward Hall talks about his memories of Dec. 7, 1941
U.S. Army Corps Edward Hall, a 95-year-old survivor of Pearl Harbor talks about his memories of that horrific day. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Final Route 91 Harvest festival remembrance objects catalogued at Clark County Museum
The last of the more than 17,000 items left at the makeshift memorial near the Las Vegas sign after the Oct. 1 shootings have been catalogued at the Clark County Museum in Las Vegas. The final item was a black-and-white bumper sticker bearing "#VEGASSTRONG. An additional 200 items currently on display at the museum will be catalogued when the exhibit comes down. (K.M. Cannon Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Dozier execution timeline
Scott Dozier was set to be executed July 11, 2018, at the Ely State Prison. Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez delayed the execution.
Grand Jury Indicts Constable for theft
A Clark County grand jury indicted Henderson Constable Earl Mitchell. A Las Vegas Review-Journal investigation prompted the criminal probe. The newspaper found Mitchell wrote himself thousands in checks, took out cash at ATMs and traveled on county funds. He faces four felony counts of theft and a county of public misconduct. Mitchell and his attorney could not be reached for comment.
93-year-old WWII veteran arrested during visit to VA hospital
Dr. S. Jay Hazan, 93, a World War II veteran, talks about his arrest during his visit to VA hospital on Friday, Nov. 30. (Erik Verduzco Las Vegas Review-Journal @Erik_Verduzco_
Pearl Harbor survivor struggles in her senior years
Winifred Kamen, 77, survived the attack on Pearl Harbor as an infant, works a 100 percent commission telemarketing job to make ends meet. (K.M. Cannon Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas Metropolitan Briefing 18th street gang
Las Vegas Metropolitan briefs the media on the recent arrests made regarding the 18th street gang.
Man shot in Las Vegas traffic stop had knife, police say
Police said the man fatally shot by an officer during a traffic stop in downtown Las Vegas had a “homemade knife.” Demontry Floytra Boyd, 43, died Saturday at University Medical Center from multiple gunshot wounds after officer Paul Bruning, 48, shot him during a traffic stop. Bruning pulled Boyd over on suspicion of driving recklessly at 7:41 a.m. near Sunrise Avenue and 18th Street.
Catahoula dogs rescued from home in Moapa Valley
Catahoula dogs were brought to The Animal Foundation after being rescued from home in Moapa Valley.
Intuitive Forager Kerry Clasby talks about losses in California wildfire
Intuitive Forager Kerry Clasby talks about losses she suffered in California's Woolsey Fire in Malibu in November. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Benefit dinner for Kerry Clasby, the Intuitive Forager
Sonia El-Nawal of Rooster Boy Cafe in Las Vegas talks about having a benefit for Kerry Clasby, known as the Intuitive Forager, who suffered losses on her farm in California’s Woolsey Fire in Malibu. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Former President George H.W. Bush dies at 94
Former President George H.W. Bush has died at the age of 94. He died Friday night in Houston, about eight months after the death of his wife, Barbara.
Las Vegans Celebrate Big Snowfall
Las Vegans celebrate big snowfall at Lee Canyon.
Exploring old mines for denim jeans and other vintage items
Caden Gould of Genoa, Nev. talks about his experiences looking for vintage denim jeans and other items in old mines and other places areas across Nevada and the west.
Officers share photo of dead gunman after Las Vegas shooting
A little over an hour after SWAT officers entered Stephen Paddock's suite at Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas police officers far from the scene were already sharing cell phone photos of the dead Oct. 1 gunman.
News Headlines
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
You May Like

You May Like